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  1. #1
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    Finances during a long tour

    I'm in the midst of preparing to do 3 tours. One short, One "Medium", and one very long term, crossing over through many countries. I've got the saving of funds thing down pat, but what I haven't been able to figure out, is how are people dealing with their finances on the road? It doesn't make sense for me to carry a wad of money everywhere I go, but this is essential for food, lodging when necessary, and most of all - borders...

    I've been pondering a Credit Card with a small limit and having someone back home watch the account and keep recharging it - but, curious to see what others are up to.
    Currently Pedaling around the world away from a career in Information Technology - Tired of I.T! www.tiredofit.ca
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  2. #2
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    For most of Europe, an ATM card will get you cash in the local currency at a good exchange rate. If you carry a credit card, arrange to have the balance paid automatically out of your savings/checking account each month. Internet cafes and public computers in hostels and campgrounds will let you keep tabs on your credit cards and bank accounts.

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    1 Credit Card
    1 Debit Card (ATM card)
    Online banking for everything else

  4. #4
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    Sort of what I was hoping for - I'm going to throw an assumption that even places such as Mongolia must have one ATM machine..
    Currently Pedaling around the world away from a career in Information Technology - Tired of I.T! www.tiredofit.ca
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  5. #5
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by sleizure View Post
    I've got the saving of funds thing down pat, but what I haven't been able to figure out, is how are people dealing with their finances on the road?
    What I've done for a long tour:
    - get rid of all bills I could and/or pay some in advance
    - put $ into a joint account with someone back home. They paid
    those once in a year bills that came in like property taxes or insurance
    or something unpredictable
    - used two ATM/debit cards, one of them on the same account
    - carry a small amount of emergency cash in euros or us $

    I used to have only one ATM/debit card, but on my first trip to Russia it stopped working. I'd gone to my credit union before I left and gotten a notice put on the account where I'd be traveling. However, the credit union had some numbers stolen and hence had put a system-wide block on all ATM transactions in Russia.

    I would expect there to be a fair amount of ATMs in Mongolia. If you are coming in overland, you'd likely exchange your last yuan/rubles into Mongolian currency and if flying in, there are bound to be ATMs at the airport as well as throughout Ulan Bator. In the last 15 years the number of ATMs have dramatically increased worldwide.

  6. #6
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    I haven't toured, but I do have overseas experiences with managing money. As stated above, debit card + backup card + online banking is the way to go. Research the countries you will travel through to see what cards are most commonly accepted. In Guatemala, for instance, it is generally easier to use Visa/Cirrus network.

    Best situation would be to have two different card carriers (ex Visa and Mastercard). When in Guatemala, Cirrus went down, so some friends who had Mastercard (forget what network) were able to withdraw cash from the one ATM we found that accepted their card, while I was temporarily reliant on them for cash.

  7. #7
    Bike touring webrarian
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    On last year's 26 day trip to France, I took 2 ATM cards and 2 credit cards.

    I never used either of the credit cards.

    I found that I could withdraw up to 300 Euros from an ATM machine, which was more than enough to pay for a hotel and whatever food and other expenses I would have in a day (usually, 300 Euros lasted several days). There was an ATM in any village with more than one or two stores in it and I passed several such villages every day.

    On my next tour in Europe (Switzerland in September), I will take the same AMT and Credit Cards and, again, try to rely only on the ATM cards.

    I didn't want to use the credit cards because 1) then the numbers might be stolen and 2) someone would have to pay the bills back home. I had arranged from someone to pay the bills but I was concerned about fraud and wanted to avoid using them, if I could.

    Ray
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post

    I didn't want to use the credit cards because 1) then the numbers might be stolen and 2) someone would have to pay the bills back home. I had arranged from someone to pay the bills but I was concerned about fraud and wanted to avoid using them, if I could.

    Ray
    Plenty of credit card issuers will automatically deduct each month's balance from a bank account that you designate, I have three cards set up that way. I schedule the payment myself online each month on the fourth card. If the card or the card number gets stolen, you cancel the card with a collect phone call. The main reason to use cash is that lots of hostels, campgrounds and small businesses in Europe don't like or won't accept credit cards.

  9. #9
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    ATMs give easy access to local currency, have become ubiquitous world wide and are generally okay in my experience if associated with a nationally-recognized brick-and-morter bank in the country you are in. In other words, ATMs otherwise should be viewed with skepticism. Be careful not to flash the cash.

    I think you want to be careful about accessing your bank account over the internet especially from public internet cafe computers but even using your own computer may not be secure enough since there are various ways that your password can be compromised. My bank offers one-time password protection with the one-time password generated by a thin, credit-card sized card...That means that, to get into your account, someone needs both your regular secret password and the one-time password generator card (i.e. part of your password changes unpredictable every time you log on). This is the most secure "public" system I know but also allows much higher-level access to your account which can be a two-edged sword so make sure you limit the privileges to no more that what you really need.

    Carry two cards in different places...They do get shut down for various reasons (some pointed out above) or stolen and if they do you will be hosed unless you also have a stash-of-cash to keep you going (which has its own set of liabilities). For a large stash-of-cash, travelers checks are safest but can be a major pain (or even impossible in the short term) to cash even if you have not also lost your ID.

    I also like the idea of separate banks and certainly separate accounts to limit the damage in the event something is seriously compromised

  10. #10
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    You can access ATMs just about everywhere (Iran, Turkmenistan are two exceptions) but sometimes you do need to carry extra cash in case the ATM isn't working or it's a few miles/days until you reach one. Generally it hasn't been a big deal for us. In countries where you need to carry cash for a few days you don't need a lot of cash (living costs are cheap) - $100 can easily get you through 1-2 weeks when you're eating cabbage and carrots! We have a credit card for just-in-case scenarios but barely ever use it.

    The U.S. has been the most annoying for us because we have to pay $3 every time we go to a machine. Everywhere else in the world it's been free! That means we carry more cash than we'd like to because taking money out every day or second day isn't feasible.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  11. #11
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Get a Schwab One account and an ATM card on that account - NO fees anywhere in the world!! We have been using ours for a year now and it has been great. We do carry a small amount of US dollars with us for borders and those times when we can't find an ATM, but havenīt needed to use them much at all. In addition, we have a credit card, but don't use it at all - we'll use it for plane tickets and such, but not daily expenses.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  12. #12
    imi
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    ATMs sometimes "eat" your card... try to use the ATMs at major banks (preferably inside the building) during opening hours. Being stuck with no money or card on a friday evening is no fun.

    On the other hand I don't mind carrying a few hundred dollars in local currency around with me...

  13. #13
    imi
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    If you're staying a long time in one country you could even consider opening a local bank account and getting a bank card for cash withdrawal.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by imi View Post
    If you're staying a long time in one country you could even consider opening a local bank account and getting a bank card for cash withdrawal.
    Somtimes you have to be an official resident of the country to open a bank account in the country. But these days you can access your account from just about anywhere in the world.

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